Tue | Mar 28, 2023

MoBay to Appleton railway service for public tender

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2023 | 1:19 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer


THE JAMAICA Railway Corporation (JRC) is seeking to attract interest for the rehabilitation of the 55-kilometre railway from Montego Bay to Appleton Estate, which is to be developed as a tourist attraction.

Phase one of the project is expected to cost US$40.2 million and will see the rehabilitation of the lines, adjacent lands, buildings, and supporting infrastructure through the hills of south St James into northwestern St Elizabeth, then on to the northeastern plains of the Breadbasket Parish.

A consortium led by hotelier Adam Stewart is considered has reportedly expressed interest in carrying out the project, but sources close to the discussions told The Gleaner that it will be put to public tender by month-end.

“Yes, there are some movements taking place with this plan, but due process will be observed with a public tender shortly,” the source said. “I am sure Adam’s group will be up for consideration.”

JRC CEO Donald Hanson declined to give any more details when The Gleaner contacted him yesterday.

“Whatever we are doing will be in the public domain and that is when we intend to comment,” was his terse response.

The second phase of the project will cover the Montego Bay to Montpelier leg, but a plan to evict squatters living along the old train track between these two points is facing strong resistance from the New Ramble residents, many of whom captured portions of the property and built homes after the Government halted the passenger rail service 30 years ago.

There are concerns that an aggressive push could create greater problems.

Removing those who encroach will see the tour culminating close to the Montego Bay Cruise Port, but no time line has been determined because of the squatters’ refusal to accept property elsewhere, causing JRC to adjust the initial plan and start the tour from Montpelier.

Consideration is being given to re-routing the rail line to run alongside the to-be-constructed Long Hill bypass, but that was deemed too costly.

However, other communities along the journey are waiting with bated breath for the resumption.

“If the train started running now, people would not want to cook. It means that much to us around here,” Hylton Ewan, a former porter at the Catadupa train station, told The Gleaner last year, noting that many people we anxious to see the service revived.